Two Black Lives Matter protesters shut down a Bernie Sanders rally on Social Security and Medicare in Seattle. The Senator did not get to address the crowd after protesters stormed the stage after he began speaking and hijacked the event that was ended by the disruption.
Just after Sanders began to speak, a pair of protesters took the stage.
The Seattle Times described the scene that unfolded:
“If you do not listen… your event will be shut down,” one of the protesters told organizers, who at first argued that they could speak after Sanders, but relented and said they could go first.
Some in the mostly white audience booed and hissed as they urged protesters to let the senator talk. A few yelled for police to make arrests. The protesters demanded silence before they’d speak.
Marissa Johnson, one of the protesters, shot back at the crowd, “I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is filled with progressives, but you did it for me,” accusing the audience of “white supremacist liberalism.”
The activists demanded 4 ½ minutes of silence in memory of Michael Brown, the black man shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri a year ago. While rally organizers stood and raised their hands in support, some in the crowd yelled profanities.
After the event was canceled the Democratic presidential candidate said in a statement, “I am disappointed that two people disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare. I was especially disappointed because on criminal justice reform and the need to fight racism there is no other candidate for president who will fight harder than me.”
Black Lives Matter Seattle issued a press release explaining why they disrupted the Sanders event, “This city is filled with white progressives, which is why Bernie Sanders’ camp was obviously expecting a friendly and consenting audience for today’s campaign visit. The problem with Sanders’, and with white Seattle progressives, in general, is that they are utterly and totally useless (when not outright harmful) in terms of the fight for Black lives. While we are drowning in their liberal rhetoric, we have yet to see them support Black grassroots movements or take on any measure of risk and responsibility for ending the tyranny of white supremacy in our country and in our city. This willful passivity while claiming solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement in an effort to be relevant is over. White progressive Seattle and Bernie Sanders cannot call themselves liberals while they participate in the racist system that claims Black lives.”
No one should have yelled profanities or racial slurs at the protesters. While I agree with the Black Lives Matter message, the bigger issue is that two protesters were able to storm the stage. Why is this still happening? Bernie Sanders is a major presidential candidate. Everyone involved was lucky that the BLM protesters were looking for a platform, instead of someone who wanted to harm Sanders. It is way past time for better event security.
The protesters are angry at Sanders after the Netroots Nation fiasco, but disrupting and protesting his events isn’t going to accomplish anything. It is time for Black Lives Matter to protest John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, governors, and the Republican presidential candidates. The protesters need to go after the power people in Washington and state capitals if they want to bring about real change.
The exchanges between the white liberals and Black Lives Matter have gotten ugly on both sides. It is time for the groups to unite and for this to end.
Together, they could be a force, but protesting Bernie Sanders isn’t going to accomplish anything. Divison only helps to strengthen the racial injustice.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA.Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association